Clamming on the Oregon Coast
How to dig for clams
There are certain signs indicating where a clam might be located. Clams leave a hole when they project their necks upward to feed. In some cases, where grass has fallen over the hole, you will notice a slight indentation in the grass. When you find a hole, stomp your foot nearby, and, if it’s a clam, it will squirt up water as it retracts the neck. Surprisingly, this squirt may be up to two feet into the air! A shallow pass with the shovel to remove about a half inch of the sand or mud over the hole location should obtain a similar result.
The next step is to dig down and find the clam. Once a clam has been located, digging should done be fairly quickly due to sand cave-ins and water seeping into the hole.
Knee boots or hip boots (waders) are almost a necessity, as the clam digger frequently needs to kneel down into the sand to claim their prize.
Experienced diggers will use a narrow clam shovel that goes into the mud or sand more easily than a common garden shovel. Additionally, there are clam guns; these are aluminum tubes that are pushed down over the clam and suck the clam (and sand or mud) out from the hole.
Digging for clams may be strenuous work and warm clothing may not be necessary, unless you’re only there as a spectator.
When to dig for clams
There is no closed season on clam digging for sport. The only factor is ensuring that the tidelands are sufficiently exposed for digging. A tide of minus 0.4 is known as a clam tide, so consulting a tide table book is essential. Tide table books are available at most local sporting goods stores, and bait and tackle shops. Tide table books usually have tide correction factors to compensate for timing and height variations at your particular locale.
Many of the best low tides fall on weekdays and will provide excellent digging with less crowded conditions. At extreme low tides, larger clams may be obtained due to the fact that this is the only time these areas are exposed.
License is required for individuals 14 and older for shellfish harvesting. Other rules are published by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations. For example, you must harvest your own limit. Helping others obtain their limit is illegal, and may result in a citation. To get an ODFW license and learn all the rules and regulations, start by finding a place to buy a ODFW license.
You are allowed to harvest 20 bay clams per day, only 12 of which may be Gaper, or Empire, clams. The first 15 razor clams dug, regardless of size or condition. Additionally, the daily harvest limit is the first 36 soft-shell clams, 72 mussels, 24 scallops, and 36 piddocks. The possession limit is no more than two daily harvest limits.
How to clean clams
Empires, or Gapers Immerse in fresh water until the neck lengthens and the outer skin slips off easily, usually after 24 hours (less time if warm water is used). Using a sharp knife, open the shell and remove the clam body. Peel off the outer skin from the neck, run the knife through the neck and split the clam body open lengthwise. Split open the stomach and completely remove all of the dark material that may be present. Additionally, be sure to remove the gelatinous rod. Littleneck. Razor, and Soft-shell clams same as above. Cockles same as above, except there is no neck on a cockle.